Despite Spectre being Daniel Craig’s final film as Bond, the golden touch hasn’t disappeared
By Kavya Pamulapati, ’19
Classic Bond – guns blazing, sleek tuxedos, car chases and of course, women decked out in lush dresses and sparkling jewelry. Almost 50 years old, it seems Ian Fleming’s iconic franchise still maintains its spot in the espionage film spotlight.
The fourth installment of Daniel Craig’s Bond broke out in theatres on Nov. 6, 2015. Just in the first night of opening in the United States, Spectre earned 70.4 million. The film also earned 84 million in the first week in the United Kingdom, breaking the record that was previously held by Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. The film marked the end of Craig’s run as the blue-eyed and blonde-haired Bond. With director Sam Mendes at the helm for the second consecutive time and co-producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli by his side, Spectre lives up to the high expectations that was set by the previous Bond film, Skyfall.
The film starts off fast-paced and on the right foot. Trying to catch Marco Sciarra, an assassin, Bond weaves through a crowd of Day of the Dead celebrators in Mexico City. Twirling dancers, men with macabre masks and large walking skeletons paint the scene with the authenticity of the holiday. But what’s Bond without his action and the on-the edge of the seat feeling it leaves behind? An exploding building and a spiraling helicopter flirting with the ground completes the opening, giving leeway to the theme song. Skyfall was known for it’s extensive title sequence and stunning vocals by Adele. However, for Spectre, Sam Smith was chosen to sing the song he co-wrote, “Writings on the Wall”. When compared with “Skyfall”, “Writings on the Wall” is clearly the loser, but not to be under-estimated, the words flow together and the instruments in the back have a lilt to them, making the song catchy. According to the US’s Billboard + Twitter Trending 140 and the UK’s Billboard top 100 singles, Smith’s single is number one, making it the first Bond theme song to do so because “Skyfall” peaked at number eight on the US’s top 100 and number two on the UK’s top 100.
Songs aside, the film starts to fall in place, with the explanation of Bond’s being in Mexico City which turns out to be not excused causing the new M (Ralph Fiennes) to suspend Bond. Expecting this to be the entire plot, in which Bond has to maintain a desk job flinging staples at headshots of his enemies, another aspect is added when C (Andrew Scott), advocates for his plan, the Nine-eyes project which allows countries access to surveillance and information. C, the head of the recently consolidated MI5 and MI6 and now private Joint Intelligence System, also tries to eliminate the double 0 program as he sees it’s irrelevant and that the agents accomplish missions inefficiently. With M and C quarreling over power, Bond goes rogue, following the lead he started in Mexico City, given by the late M (Judi Dench). And so ensues the classic 007 recipe. Go rogue, get the girl and solve the mystery. After his little visit with M in London, Bond takes trips throughout the most picturesque places in Europe and Africa; Rome, the Alps and Morocco, spending most of his time figuring out the organization for which Sciarra worked for. Bond has the help of MI6 quartermaster Q (Ben Whishaw) and M’s assistant, Eve Moneypenny (Naomie Harris). While in Rome, Bond attends the funeral of the assassin and after mingling with Sciarra’s widow (Monica Belucci), he extracts enough information out of her about the organization, Spectre, her husband works for. He stops by the congregation, which seems to include representatives from multiple countries discussing recent terrorist attacks and their successfulness in inducing fear. Quick to the escape after being recognized by Spectre’s leader, Bond drives away in nothing but an Aston Martin DB10 and Mr. Hinx (Dave Bautista) in his pursuit.
The leader of Spectre turns out to be Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz), a man who seemed to live in the murky shadows of Bond’s past, as Oberhauser puts it, “You’ve come across me so many times, yet you never saw me.” Throughout the film Bond’s past is further delved into, including late Vesper (Eva Green) and villains from the past three movies. All this history-diving turns Bond into a character more relatable and clear which is a stark contrast to what Bond was meant to be; a man with no past. Despite the depth given to Bond, some scenes seemed to inquire more about Bond then about the plot and the action that mostly drove it throughout the film. Oberhauser’s organization is plotting terrorist movements by bombing buildings and people to dust that are only seen through televisions, often a only a second or two. The bombings are a key part of both the Nine- Eyes project and Oberhauser’s plan and the fact that they aren’t shown seems to downplay the actual reason for Spectre and the need for Bond to save the world but emphasizes more on Bond, his womanizing ways and the ethical problems that come with being a 007 agent. Probably the biggest difference between the old Bond movies and the recent Bond movies is that the audience learns more about Bond rather than the institution of terror, money-hoarding villain or evil bomb with a minute countdown that characterizes much of the excitement of the film.
Speaking of excitement, much of Spectre’s action scenes passed the high expectations, left by Skyfall, with flying colors. A plane and car scene set in the snowy, dense Alps and a train scene set in the windy and desert plains of Morocco? That’s a bonus. Fast-paced and precise, Bond never fights more than he needs to; he even has the help of Mr. White’s daughter, Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux) more than once. The Bond series is known for it’s fight scenes in those legendary tuxedos, and Spectre delivered it. Most of the action contributed to the plot and even furthering it at points and defusing serious scenes. Despite being PG-13, the action was a little more bloody and extreme than past movies, some scenes might even leave viewers with their hands over their eyes such as when Mr. Hinx brutally blinds and kills someone with his bare hands to gain his position as assassin or when Oberhauser viciously tortures Bond through the head with a tiny drill. Regardless of violence the most intense scenes such as Swann’s confession about her past on the train were accompanied by Mr. Hinx attacking Bond directly after, displaying fast-paced action that kept the whole movie moving, never leaving a boring moment. Even if the plot development was detrimental, at least Bond fanatics and ordinary viewers will love the concise fight scenes and thrilling chase scenes, which encompassed the best parts of the movie.
While action reaped first for Spectre, the dialogue definitely won second place with Q’s witty humour and earnest lines that Craig delivered. Some scenes were just built up on a short fuse, with the dialogue alleviating the seriousness and adding a lightheartedness but also keeping things solemn and mysterious when they needed to be, like the assassins at Sciarra’s house and Bond rescuing the widow, and uttering a single line or Moneypenny guiding Bond with just a hint of sarcasm or Swann and her subtle hints that draw out the viewer’s interest into her experience with espionage and Spectre. Q’s jokes are even funny, despite being a little corny. The lines themselves have lovely metaphors and descriptives such as Mr. White’s explanation for Bon, “You’re a kite dancing in a hurricane, Mr. Bond”. All in all, every actor delivers their part perfectly with this movie, from everything to their facial expression to the tone that they have.
While maintaining their spot in the limelight, the Bond franchise has built up a legend and role model for spy movies everywhere. Bourne movies and the Mission Impossible series wish they were Bond, but there can only be one Bond; James Bond. The undeniably likeable agent, the enthralling action and the clever lines that keep the movie-goers engaged stayed true to their roots and originality in Spectre, which makes for an eight out of ten stars and count a successful final run for Craig. Maybe Craig’s departure won’t be the end of the classic James Bond and his missions, but as Moneypenny puts it, “I think you’re just getting started”.